Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Life During the Millennium

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The Bible describes a thousand-year reign in which Jesus will rule the Earth in perfect peace and justice. Theologians have borrowed a Latin phrase to describe this epoch—“Millennium.” It is made of up two words mille—meaning “thousand”—and annum—meaning “years.” In our English Bibles you won’t find the word “millennium” but you will find a reference to a literal thousand-year period six times in Revelation 20:1-10.

Admittedly, there is not much preaching on the millennium today, which is odd considering the fact that the Bible has so much to say about it. In fact, Dr. Dwight Pentecost, who devoted his entire life to the study of prophecy, wrote: “A larger body of prophetic Scripture is devoted to the subject of the Millennium, developing its character and conditions, than any other one subject. Therefore, the Millennial Age demands considerable attention.”[1]

So what will life be like for those thousand years? If we went through the myriad of verses in the Old Testament that spoke on this subject I think you’d be stunned. Someone has remarked that there is so much written of the Millennial Kingdom that if we were to collect all the verses into a single book they would about the size of the epistles section in the New Testament.
 
·         A time of peace (Is. 2:4)
In the garden of the United Nations headquarters in New York City, stands a dramatic sculpture—actually it’s a 1959 gift from the old Soviet Union—which bears a portion of the words of Isaiah 2:4: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares.” The sculpture shows the figure of a man holding a hammer in one hand, and in the other, a sword that he is beating into a plow. It expresses secular man’s utopian aspiration for world peace.

Yet since that statue was erected we have endured the Vietnam War, The Gulf War, the on-going Israeli-Palestinian conflict, countless tribal wars in Africa, 9/11, the Iraq War and the battle against terrorism. Those hoping for UN to get all the nations of the world to wear peace charms and sing “kum-by-yah” have a better chance of seeing pigs fly.

But here’s the problem with that statue: Isaiah 2:4 has a first part to the verse that is omitted. It begins: “He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people.” Isaiah 2 is about the Second Coming of Christ and the establishing of His millennial reign. They are missing the most important part, namely a person—Jesus Christ!  

Only the Prince of Peace, has the power to make armies lay down their weapons. Have you ever noticed that when Christ gave the disciples the model prayer, He didn’t command them to pray for peace? Instead he told them to pray, “Your kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Only when Christ returns will there be a lasting universal peace, so when you pray and end with those words you are actually invoking the hastening of the Millennial Kingdom.

·         A time of prosperity (Ez. 34:26-27; 36:29-30, 34-35; Joel 2:24; Amos 9:13)
In 2013 the World Health Organization reported that although farmers are able to produce enough food to sustain the world’s 7+ billion people, poverty, war and a host of other problems prevent people from being able to receive a healthy diet. However, during the Millennium it appears that God will remove these hindrances. The entire world will be turned into a kind of paradise reminiscent of the verdant fields of Eden.

The Old Testament prophets filled their writings with imagery of agricultural abundance during this period. Ezekiel speaks of plentiful rainfall, trees loaded with an abundance of ripe fruit and land that once desolate now under the authority of Christ becoming fertile (Ez. 34:26-27). Joel writes that during the Millennium, “The threshing floors shall be full of grain; the vats shall overflow with wine and oil” (2:24).

Amos 9:13 adds another interesting picture, “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when the plowman shall overtake the reaper and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; the mountains shall drip sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.” Notice that Amos says during this time there will be no dead space of winter between planting and harvesting. Imagine harvesting a crop at the beginning of the week and planting another at the end.

·         A time of prolonged life (Is. 65:20; Zech. 8:4-5)
According to the numbers, the average worldwide life expectancy in 2013 was 71 (68 for men and 73 for women). However, in this golden age, people who survived the Tribulation period and come into the Lord’s kingdom will experience longevity like the pre-Flood patriarchs enjoyed in Genesis. Isaiah tells us that a man who is a hundred years old will be considered a child, “No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old” (65:20).  

Zechariah tells us that along with increased years there will also be a baby boom during the Millennium as well, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets” (8:4-5).    

·         A time of praise (Ps. 98:4-9)
During the Millennium the whole world will be filled with praise to Jesus. “Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise . . . Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together before the LORD; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity” (Ps. 98:4-9).

Some people wonder why it’s important that Jesus reign on earth for 1,000 years in an earthly kingdom. Prophetic scholar, Charles Ryrie answers, “Because Christ must triumph in the same arena where He was seemingly defeated. His rejection by the rulers of this world was on the earth. His exaltation must also be on this earth. And so it shall be when He comes to rule the world in righteousness. He has waited long for His Kingdom; soon He shall receive it.”[2]

-DM



[1] J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1958), 476.
[2] Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology (Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1986), 511. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Faith Is Not Safe

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Recently, I had the chance to watch the gripping documentary, “Facing Darkness” about the 2014 Ebola outbreak that ravaged the African nation of Liberia (Click here for the trailer). The movie told the life-and-death survivor struggle of Dr. Kent Brantley, who was serving in Liberia with Samaritan’s Purse as a medical missionary during the epidemic. Dr. Brantley became the first American diagnosed with Ebola in late July 2014.   

The 104.9-degree fever caused him to lapse into delirium and nausea. He could not keep down any fluids or food and the uncontrollable diarrhea further weakened his condition. The body aches were nearly unbearable. Because of the isolation that Ebola patients experience as they are quarantined, Brantley said, “Ebola is a humiliating disease that strips you of all your dignity.”[i]

Brantley moved closer to death, when finally, someone suggested that they try giving the doctor a plasma transfusion from an Ebola survivor. In the days before his infection, Brantley had been treating a 14-year-old boy with Ebola, who baffled the doctors and miraculously survived the virus. One of the doctors had the foresight to take a unit of the African boy’s blood with them back to the States.[ii] Doctors in Liberia were able to stabilize Brantley long enough for him to be transported to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, GA via specialized air ambulance.

Amazingly, the plasma donation worked for Dr. Brantley and many have thought it was no accident that the boy who donated the blood was type AB—the universal donor for plasma. Brantley made a full recovery and was discharged from the hospital with a clean bill of health on Aug. 21, 2014. Since his recovery Brantley, donated the plasma in his blood to three more patients in America who contracted the virus. All three survived.[iii]

Towards the end of the film Brantley said something that gave me chills, “People often ask me did your faith save you? I tell them ‘No,’ because faith doesn’t make you safe. My faith was the reason I was in Africa. It was my faith that put me on the front lines. It was faith that put me in the Ebola Treatment Unit.”

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I think Dr. Brantley is absolutely right. It’s our faith that takes us to the front lines, and into the storms. It’s our faith that takes us to places where must rely only on God to get us through. Following Christ is not safe, just look at the people of the Bible. Noah followed God and got caught in a Flood. Abraham followed God and nearly sacrificed his son. Joseph followed God and ended up being thrown into a pit and left for dead. Daniel was nearly eaten in a den of lions. Each of the Apostles gave their lives as martyrs precisely because of their faith.

At the end of Hebrews 11, the great Hall of Faith, we read this, “35 Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”               

Follow Jesus and you may risk your life. Don’t follow Jesus and you will waste your life (Mark 8:36). The cost of following Christ by faith is great. The cost of not following Christ is greater. Faith does not make things easier necessarily, but it does make all things possible. -DM





[i] Dr. Kent Brantly, “This Is What It Feels Like to Survive Ebola,” Time, 5 September 2014 <http://time.com/ 3270016/ebola-survivor-kent-brantly/>
[ii] Sydney Lupkin, “Why Blood Transfusions From Ebola Survivor Dr. Kent Brantley Could Help Patients,” ABC News 14 October 2014 <http://abcnews.go.com/Health/blood-transfusions-ebola-survivor-dr-kent-brantly-patients/story?id=26182136>
[iii] “A Miraculous Day,” Samaritan’s Purse, 21 August 2014 <http://www.samaritanspurse.org/article/samaritans-purse-doctor-recovered-from-ebola/>   

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Miles Coverdale: Tyndale's Finish Man

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This year, Protestants around the world celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. On Truth for Today, we have already looked back on the influence of John Wycliffe, “The Morning Star” of the Reformation (click here) and John Huss (click here) Now we look at another courageous man of faith who led the charge to rescue the Gospel from man-made traditions.

Do you believe that God can answer our prayers before we offer them? That’s what Isaiah 65:24 says, “Before they pray I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear.”  

I believe that’s what happened at the end of William Tyndale’s life. Tyndale put his life at risk when he decided to translate the Bible into the English language during the reign of King Henry VIII. The church and government opposed him vehemently, but he told one clergymen, “If God spare my life, I will cause the boy who driveth the plow to know more of the Scripture than thou dost.” On October 6, 1536 he was burned at the stake for his work. His last words were a prayer, “Lord, open the eyes of the King.”

The Bible translation that Tyndale had begun when he was arrested in May 1535 only included the New Testament, the Pentateuch and a few historical books of the Old Testament. England was still without a complete Bible in the English language. Who would finish the work? Because he was imprisoned, Tyndale perished without knowing that the Lord had already answered his prayer—one year earlier, almost to the very day. God had already raised up a new man to finish the work; his name was Miles Coverdale.

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Coverdale, like many of the Reformers of his time, was first an Augustinian monk. And like Luther, Coverdale found a profound emptiness in Catholicism. The turning point for Coverdale came in 1527 when he started studying the Scriptures earnestly looking for the answers to salvation. Not long after his conversion, he soon understood the depths of corruption in the Church. Coverdale wrote, “Upon study of the Scripture I perceived that the reformation of the church must be effected by the Word of God. For wherever the Scripture is known it reformeth all things. And Why? Because it is given by the inspiration of God.”

Using Tyndale's work as his starting point, Coverdale stepped in and filled in the gaps with his own translations based on the Vulgate (the Latin Bible of the Middle Ages) and Luther's German Bible. He worked quickly to piece together a complete English Bible, which was published on October 4, 1535 in Zurich, Switzerland. Coverdale wisely dedicated it to King Henry VIII, who being flattered, allowed it to become the first English rendering of Scripture to circulate without government hindrance—thus answering Tyndale’s prayer a year in advance.  

Without men like Wycliffe, Tyndale and Coverdale willing to sacrifice and risk everything, the English Bible may have never happened or at least been delayed by many years. Next time you open your Bible consider the blood, sweat and tears it cost a few so that you could have access to God’s Word.

Tyndale and Coverdale’s story also highlights an interesting dynamic in the Church—you may be plowing up the hard ground, so that someone else can plant and harvest. What you start for the Lord may be handed off for another servant to finish. We also see this pattern in Scripture: Joshua finished what Moses started by leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, Elijah passed on his prophetic mantle to Elisha, John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, and Jesus invested in the disciples so that they could spread the Gospel over the globe. As Paul wrote to Timothy, “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). -DM  

Sources
1)      Robert J. Morgan, On This Day (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997), October 4.

2)      <http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1501-1600/coverdale-finished-english-language-bible-11629958.html> 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Worship and the Word

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The book of Nehemiah not only recounts one man’s mission to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem, but it’s also about the revival of the workers who aided in this monumental task. In chapter 9:2-3 we read that, “2 And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. 3 And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day; for another quarter of it they made confession and worshiped the Lord their God.”

Notice that the great catalyst for their revival was when Nehemiah’s people got serious about God’s Word. This may seem obvious, but worship of God goes hand-in-hand with the Word of God, because it’s impossible to worship a God you don’t know anything about. I mention this is because we are living in the most biblically illiterate time period this nation has ever seen.   

In 2016 Albert Mohler of Southern Seminary, published an article called, “The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy,” in which he presented the findings of Barna and Gallup nationwide surveys on Biblical literacy among Christians, listen to some of these results—they are astounding:

Fewer than half of all church-attending adults could name the four gospels. Many Church-goers could not identify more than two or three of the disciples. 60% surveyed could not name even five of the 10 Commandments. 82% affirmed that, “God helps those who help themselves,” is a Bible verse. 50% thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham. They also found that a majority of church-goers don’t even bother bringing their Bible because their pastor only mentions it a few times during the sermon.[i]

Pastors today are often judged more on their ability to make a congregation laugh than on the biblical content of their preaching. There is nothing wrong with joy in the house of God, but I wasn’t called to be a stand-up comedian, but to be a ploughman of God’s Word. The more that we substitute the Word of God with other things in the worship the weaker we become.

In July 2010 an astronomer at the University of Sheffield discovered the brightest star known to mankind. The star, currently named R136a1, is 22,000 light years away, has a mass roughly 265 greater than our sun and the brightness of this star is some 10 million times brighter than the light of our sun! Not even a welder’s helmet would help you face the light from this giant! What made the discovery possible was an incredibly powerful telescope that could bring the distant star into focus. The star had always been there, we just recently had the technology to peer across the universe that vast distance and see her.[ii]



Just like those massively powerful telescopes, the Word of God brings into focus the God of the Word. The Bible is the lens through which we see God’s infinite greatness, glory and goodness. God has always been there—but the Bible magnifies our understanding of God to see what we’ve never seen before and to make Him up close and personal. You can tell revival has come when the people of God have a hunger for the word of God. -DM



[i] Albert Mohler, “The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem,” 20 January 2016
<http://www.albertmohler.com/2016/01/20/the-scandal-of-biblical-illiteracy-its-our-problem-4/>
[ii] Johnathan Amos, “Astronomers Detect Monster Star,” BBC News, 21 July 2010
<http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-10707416> 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Biometrics and the End Times

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A recent news item caught my attention. The headline read, “Wisconsin Company to Install Rice-sized Microchips in Employees.” The article reported that a Wisconsin-based tech company, Three Square, started offering its employees microchip implants that can be used to scan into the building and purchase food at work. CEO Todd Westby said in a company statement rather prophetically, “Eventually, this technology will become standardized allowing you to use this as your passport, public transit, all purchasing opportunities, etc.”[1]

This kind of biometric technology has been in existence for a while. One of the emergent technologies that came out of the 9/11 attacks was a company called VeriChip. As first responders sifted through the rubble for the bodies of victims and survivors, many firefighters and policeman wrote their badge numbers on their bodies, should they become victims. One tech company saw a way to help solve this problem in the future. What if a small RFID (radio-frequency-identification) chip could be placed under the skin, which contained personal information—name, blood type, SSN, etc. By 2004 the FDA approved the VeriChip, a rice-grain sized microchip that can be implanted under the skins of humans and preloaded with all kinds of personal data.

As technology progresses at lightning-fast pace we see biometrics becoming more mainstream.  In the UK, students pay for their lunches by giving a thumbprint scan. They simply place their thumb on the scanner and funds are withdrawn from their prepaid lunch account set up by parents.[2]

Just a few days ago Apple announced the release of its newest smartphone, the iPhone X. The new top-of-the-line model, coming in November, uses your facial features to unlock the phone as well as to authenticate purchases through Apple Pay. Apple calls its flavor of facial recognition Face ID. One article said, “If the idea of unlocking a phone with your face seems creepy, you better get used to it. Facial recognition is here, and it will only be more prevalent in the years to come.”[3]

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The student of Bible prophecy should track these technological developments with Rev. 13 in mind. In that chapter, we get a glimpse of the Antichrist’s evil empire; where in order to participate in the end-time economy one must first receive “the Mark of the Beast.” Rev. 13:16-17 reads, “Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name.”

If the tribulation citizens will not worship the Antichrist willingly, then he will force them to bow the knee by hitting them where it hurts the most—their bank account. The people alive during the Tribulation will be forced to make the following choice—either receive the mark of the Beast and worship the Antichrist, or starve to death with no ability to buy or sell.

What is significant is that for the first time in history man has the technological prowess to achieve the marriage of biometrics to an economic market. 50 years ago, it was nearly impossible for anyone to imagine how one man could take the reins of power by controlling people’s purchasing power. But now, with all the technology we have in our digital devices we can see that much of the necessary infrastructure is already integrated into our daily lives. People accept the technology as part-and-parcel of what it means to live in the 21st century, which will make it easier for the Antichrist and False Prophet to go ahead and implement their system in a seamless transition. 

Bible scholar Ron Rhodes says in his book End-Times Super Trends, “Biometrics technology goes hand in hand with our emerging cashless economy…I believe this will be one of the technologies used in the end times as the Antichrist seeks to control who can buy and sell during the tribulation period.”[4]

We are on the cutting edge of having all the technology that the Antichrist and False Prophet need to wire this world together for their evil purposes. The world stage is being set for their appearance and the final act of God’s divine drama is about to begin. That means that the rapture of the church and the coming of the Lord Jesus is getting even closer! Are you ready?

-DM 



[1] Mary Bowerman, “Wisconsin company to install rice-sized microchips in employees,” USA Today, 24 July 2017
<https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/nation-now/2017/07/24/wisconsin-company-install-rice-sized-microchips-employees/503867001/>
[2] Ron Rhodes, End-Times Super Trends (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2017), 204.
[3] Jefferson Graham and Edward C. Baig, “Facial recognition: iPhone today, tomorrow the airport?” USA TODAY, Sept. 14, 2017 < https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/talkingtech/2017/09/14/facial-recognition-iphone-today-tomorrow-airport/664000001/>
[4] Rhodes, 204.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON

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The day after Great Britain declared war on Germany in 1939, the British government established the Ministry of Information. Its mission was to generate materials to sustain the nation’s morale during World War II. One of the Ministry’s first projects was a series of three posters. Each design was similar in style and appearance, all featuring the king’s crown at the top followed by a forthright slogan in simple font.

The first sign bore this motto: YOUR COURAGE YOUR CHEERFULNESS YOUR RESOLUTION WILL BRING US VICTORY. Nearly 1 million of these signs—white letters on a blue background—were printed across the land. The second sign featured a green background with white letters proclaiming: FREEDOM IS IN PERIL DEFEND IT WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT. About half a million of these were printed and tacked up in bus stops, train stations, shop windows and billboards.

The MOI then designed a third poster and printed millions of them, but these were warehoused and intended for distribution only if the war fell into dire circumstances. In other words, this poster was only to be used in the case of a German invasion of British soil. The sign featured a stark white font against a red background and carried the message: KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.

Britain was spared invasion and the order was given to destroy these signs. It is believed that most of the KEEP CALM posters were reduced to a pulp at the end of the war in 1945. But, a few years ago, Stuart and Mary Manley—bookstore owners in England—bought a box of old materials at an auction. As the Manley’s sorted through the purchase, they pulled out a striking red cardboard poster with the KEEP CALM slogan printed on it.

The Manley’s didn’t recognize its significance, but they liked it so much they had it framed and hung behind the cash register of their store. Customers were strangely moved by the simple words and began asking for copies, so the Manley’s had replicas made. The slogan began appearing on mugs, T-shirts, towels and many other accessories.

As the motto spread across the country, the story behind the poster came out and the KEEP CALM message became a sensation. A simple sentence, crafted but unused by one generation during a time of peril, seems almost prophetically intended for another generation facing terrorism, economic crisis and natural calamities. The BBC has speculated that the iconic KEEP CALM sign might be the greatest motivational poster in history, for its stoic message is timeless.[1]     

The KEEP CALM posters remind me of God’s dramatic deliverance of the Israelite’s at the Red Sea. With the Red Sea before them and Pharaoh’s army bearing down on them from behind, Moses and company were trapped. They were in an impossible situation. That’s when Moses said to the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lord rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm” (EX. 14:13-14, NLT).

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Do those words reverberate with you right now? Our Enemy may invade our turf, we may have battles on every side, we may live in turbulent times, but we can fix our faith on God. We cannot solve every problem, cure every hurt, avoid every fear, but we can leave room for God.

I don’t have the answers to every dilemma, but I know the One who can make a way! If you’re in a difficult place, perhaps you need to entrust the problem to the Lord and leave it in His hands. He alone can storm the impregnable, devise the improbable and perform the impossible. He alone can bring you to it, and bring you through it! -DM  



[1] David Jeremiah, “Keep Calm and Carry On,” Turning Points, May 2013, p. 6-9. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Wrong Turns

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On June 28, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife, Sophie, visited Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia. Awaiting the visiting royal couple were six Bosnian-born Serb terrorists, strung out along their route. They were seeking to avenge Austria’s recent annexation of Bosnia, which once had been part of the long-vanished Serbian Empire.

A terrorist threw a hand grenade at the open car carrying the archduke and his wife, but the grenade only wounded members of the archduke’s entourage. Later that day, the archduke, and his wife decided to visit the wounded in the hospital. En route, the driver took a wrong turn and, in the course of backing out of the street, came to a stop in front of a sidewalk cafe where one of the frustrated assassins, 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip, was getting drunk.

Astonished at his opportunity, Princip stepped out of the crowd and fired two shots. The first severed the archduke’s carotid artery, and the second hit his wife’s abdomen. Both died within minutes. This event precipitated WWI as allied nations declared war on each other. Four years later, more than sixteen million people were dead from the World War ignited by that assassin.[1]

But it can all be traced back to a wrong turn. Big events of history swing on small hinges. Wrong turns can lead to tragic consequences—even death. That’s why the Bible warns in Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”

The tantalizing prospect of misadventure which takes us out of God’s will comes in all shapes and sizes—that mid-life crisis which brings on years of regret; the ill-advised investment which ends in financial ruin; the moment of unguarded pleasure which leads to an adulterous affair; the move and job switch that throws a monkey wrench into the next five years.

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One thing is for sure, the most expensive trip you’ll ever take is a detour from the will of God.  
Just ask Abram. When Abram was on his way to the land of prosperity that God had promised him, he decided to take costly bypass south into the land of Egypt (Gen 12:10-13:4). Abram should have checked with God before he took the turn leading south. The Lord could have warned him of the impending disaster ahead. What followed from the patriarch’s blunder was collateral damage which ultimately changed the course of history and caused problems for Abram that plagued him the rest of his life.

Instead, Abram returned from Egypt with baggage that he would regret for the rest of his life. Everything that Abram received in Egypt later caused him trouble. Because of the great wealth he acquired from Pharaoh, Abram and Lot could not live together and had to separate (13:5-6). Hagar, the Egyptian maidservant that Pharaoh gave to Abram brought division and sorrow into the home (16:1-16). Abram attempts to build a family through Hagar. This was not God’s plan. Hagar becomes the mother of the Arab nations. Sarai becomes the mother of the Jewish nation. Today, we live with the international tensions between these two countries, and the origin of the struggle goes back to Egypt.   

When a saint sins, they can be forgiven and given a fresh start, but the Lord does not magically remove the consequences of our detours. Abram would rue the day he thought it a good idea to turn his caravan south. That is why we must count the cost before we decide to take detour.

-DM



[1] Gregory J. Wallace, “The Wrong Turn That Changed a Century -- and Still Haunts Us Today,” Forbes, 27 June 2014 <https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesleadershipforum/2014/06/27/the-wrong-turn-that-changed-a-century-and-still-haunts-us-today/#617a6f165e16> 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Calling Fear's Bluff

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In one of his books, Max Lucado, writes about an infamous bandit who preyed upon travelers in the days of the Old West. Black Bart struck fear in the hearts of many along the Wells Fargo stage line. From San Francisco to New York, his name became synonymous with the danger of the frontier. Between 1875 and 1883 he robbed 29 different stagecoach crews. Amazingly, Bart did it all without firing a shot. Because a hood hid his face, no victim ever saw his face. He never took a hostage and was never trailed by a sheriff. Instead, Black Bart used fear to paralyze his victims. His sinister presence was enough to overwhelm the toughest stagecoach guard.[1]

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Black Bart is reminiscent of another thief, who still lurks in the shadows. Even though you’ve never seen his face, you could describe his voice. When he’s near, you know it in a heartbeat. Jesus gave us a mugshot in John 10:10, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.” Satan uses the psychology of fear to paralyze God’s people and rob us of our peace, joy and strength.

However, I have noticed a pattern in the Devil’s strategy—behind every fear is a falsehood. Our Enemy deploys lies in order to create dread, anxiety and worry; each of which undermine our faith in God. In fact, someone has said that F-E-A-R is nothing more than False Evidence Appearing Real. Satan is a lion with no teeth (1 Peter 5:8), a serpent with no fangs (Rom. 16:20).  

Think about it: when you’ve sinned and blown it Satan uses this lie, “It’s over. God can never use you again. There’s no recovering from this one.” When you’re sick and laying on your back in the hospital Satan whispers, “Do you really think God loves you? If He did then why are you suffering?” When you are in a financial pinch and you don’t know how you are going to make it, Lucifer the liar intimidates, “I guess your God is up there asleep. Your stuck in a deep pit, don’t even try praying. He won’t hear you.” Fear is a liar and we must call it's bluff. 

Our Enemy looks for the cracks in our foundation and wherever he can drive in a wedge of fear he can divide our mind and control us. I have discovered that fear is really all about control. Satan uses fear as a means of control—he makes us afraid so we won’t trust and obey God.  

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Thankfully, the Lord has an answer for fear—love. His love is greater than anything you could possibly fear or that could possibly happen to you. 1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear. . .” Believing God’s love gives us courage. It doesn’t just give us courage when we stand before Him after we die, but every day of our lives as we face uncertainties and questions, changes and challenges on the road of life and making decisions about the future. God’s love gives us courage because we know He has our back. There is nowhere we can go, there is no decision we can make, there is no failure we can experience, or any problem we will encounter that God won’t be there to help. -DM



[1] Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1990), 77-78. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Racism and The Gospel

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Ferguson, MO; Baltimore, MD; Dallas, TX; Charlottesville, VA. Recently these great American cities have been in the headlines because of the racism, protests and riots that have erupted in their streets. I don’t know about you, but doesn’t it seem like 2017 looks and feels more like 1967? All the bloodshed, profane picketing, and removing of Civil War monuments has reopened the America’s old wound of racism. Indeed, it does seem that Jesus’ end-time prediction is coming true before our eyes, “And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another…And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold” (Matt. 24:10, 12).

Did you realize that the real answer to America’s race problem is not political or social, but spiritual? The Gospel is God’s way of dealing with our hatred and prejudice. In fact, consider these biblical principles as they relate to race:

·         All of humanity was created in the image of God, with equal value in the eyes of our Heavenly Father (Gen. 1:26). God is color-blind in this respect, because each soul is His handiwork. 

·         --The Bible does not even use the word “race” in reference to people, but it does describe all human beings as being of “one blood” (Acts 17:26). Terms such as these emphasize that we are all related; the descendants of the first man and woman.

·         --God loves every culture and color on Earth. Just look at the cross, God sent His Son to die for their sins (John 3:16). I read a church sign once that summed it up beautifully, “Jesus died for our sin, not our skin.”  

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·         --The Church is the solution for racism, because it is the place where everyone is united under the Gospel banner. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).


·         --There won’t be any racism in heaven. God’s ultimate plan of redemption is to remove the sin of prejudice totally from the heart of man. In Rev. 7:9-10, John sees the church worshiping Christ, “I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”  

-DM   

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Battle with the Bottle

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A recent report carried the following headline, “America’s Drinking Problem Is Much Worse This Century.” According to the article, “Americans are drinking more than ever before, a troubling trend with potentially dire implications for the country’s future health-care costs.” The number of adults who binge drink at least once a week could be as high as 30 million, greater than the population of every state, save California. One of the doctors involved in the study concluded, “Alcohol is our number one drug problem . . . Excess drinking caused on average more than 88,000 deaths in the U.S. each year—more than twice the number of deaths from prescription opioids and heroin last year. The total includes drunk-driving deaths and alcohol-linked violence, as well as liver disease, strokes and other medical conditions.”[1]

The Bible is full of warnings about the dangers of alcohol, but perhaps the most vivid is found in Proverbs 23:29-35:  
“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine.  Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly.  In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things.  You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast. “They struck me,” you will say, “but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink.”

Notice all the side effects that come from having too much to drink: sorrow, self-pity, hangover, bloodshot eyes, hallucinations, slurred speech, instability of mind, staggered steps, deadening of the senses and eventually addiction. Show me where to sign up for that!

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If you are struggling with the issue of drinking, I want you to know that God’s warnings are in place not because He’s a killjoy, but because He’s a lifesaver. God’s danger signs are in place to maximize life. You might think of God’s moral laws like guardrails that are put on a windy mountain pass to keep the car from careening off the edge.   

Randy Alcorn has said, “A smart traveler doesn’t curse guardrails.  He doesn’t whine, “That guardrail dented my fender!” He looks over the cliff, sees demolished autos and thanks God for guardrails. God’s guardrails are his moral laws. They stand between us and destruction. They are there not to punish or deprive us, but to protect us.”[2]     

Moderation is not the cure for the liquor problem. Moderation is the cause of the liquor problem. Becoming an alcoholic does not begin with the last drink, it begins with the first. Abstinence is best, because it’s impossible to be bitten by a rattlesnake you never play with.

By the way, for those of you who think it’s fine to drink and it won’t damage your Christian witness, consider Paul’s words:

·         Romans 14:21: “It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.” 

·         1 Corinthians 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

·         Philippians 2:4: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”   

When you drink in front of unbelievers, children and others who are looking to you as an example of Christ what message are you sending? If you know that there is someone who struggles with alcohol or has struggled in the past with alcohol abuse, out of respect for them the Bible says that we are to limit our Christian liberty for the sake of others. I think Ravi Zacharias gave us one of the best principles when it comes to understanding legitimate pleasure, “Any pleasure that jeopardizes the sacred right of another is an illicit pleasure.”    

In one of his books, Max Lucado, comes clean about his struggle with alcohol. Lucado said, “I come from a family of alcoholism. If there's anything about this DNA stuff, I've got it.” For more than 20 years, drinking wasn’t a major issue for Lucado. But a couple of years ago, it nearly became one. Lucado recalled, “I lowered my guard a bit. One beer with a barbecue won't hurt. Then another time with Mexican food. Then a time or two with no food at all.”

One afternoon on his way to speak at a men’s retreat he began to plot: “Where could I buy a beer and not be seen by anyone I know?” He drove to an out-of-the-way convenience store, parked, and waited till all the patrons left. He entered, bought a beer, held it close to his side, and hurried to his car. “I felt a sense of conviction,” Lucado remembers, “because the night before I'd had a long talk with my oldest daughter about not covering things up.”

Lucado didn't drink that beer. Instead he rolled down the window, threw it in a trash bin, and asked God for forgiveness. He also decided to come clean with the elders of his church about what happened: “When I shared it with the elders, they just looked at me across the table and said, ‘Satan is determined to get you for this right now. We're going to cover this with prayer, but you've got to get the alcohol out of your life.’”[3]

No matter how out-of-control your addiction might be, Christ has the ability to break the chains of your dependence. You can win the battle with the bottle. -DM





[1] John Tozzi, “America’s Drinking Problem Is Much Worse This Century,” Bloomberg News, 7 August 2017 <https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-09/america-s-drinking-problem-is-much-worse-this-century?utm_campaign=news&utm_medium=bd&utm_source=applenews>
[2] Randy Alcorn, The Purity Principle (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2003), 28.
[3] Max Lucado, Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012), 81-88. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Winning against Worry

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C. S. Lewis’ imaginative book The Screwtape Letters is a fictional story which records a series of conversations between a couple of Satan’s demons. Screwtape, the senior demon, explains to the junior devil, Wormwood, why they must tempt humans to worry and not trust God.  Screwtape says, “There is nothing like suspense and anxiety for barricading a human's mind against the Enemy [God]. Our business is to keep them distracted, thinking about what might happen to them.”[1]

Screwtape’s comment gives us an insightful window into the root of worry. Anxiety over the unknown is motivated by the fear of what could happen. A person who worries is apt to let their imagination run wild with all kind of possibilities that they have no control over. J.C. Ryle once said, “Half of our miseries are caused by things we think are coming upon us.  All our fret and worry is caused by calculating without God.” Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom added, “Worry is an old man with bended head, carrying a load of feathers which he thinks are lead.”

A few years ago, a major university did a research project on the things we fret about. Here are the results: 40% of what people worry about never happens. 30% of stressors have already happened and you can't do anything about the past. 12% fretted what others said about you, which most of the time is uncontrollable. 10% of worry deals with health issues and worrying will only make that worse! That leaves about eight percent of the things that are considered to be real problems...and worry will not do any good with these either![2]   

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned against worry as joy-killer to the Christian life, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they (Matt 6:26)?” Jesus’ point is that worry is irrational. His argument moves from the lesser to the greater. If God can give and sustain the life a bird, then surely He can do the same for you and me.

Jesus also defines worry with an interesting word picture. The Greek word in the text is merimno, which is the combination of two smaller terms—merizo, which means “to divide; and nous which means, “mind.” The idea is that the worried mind is one that is being pulled about in opposite directions. The worrier has their mind divided, or torn between fear and faith. What Jesus is saying here is quite powerful. In essence, worry comes from a heart of unbelief. Worry is a form of practical atheism, because it assumes there is no good God watching over us.

The reason why God doesn’t want us to worry is so that we can focus on what is truly important—building the kingdom of God. The Lord takes care of our physical needs so that we can busy about His work. Tomorrow will take care of itself, if today we decide to trust Jesus.  
 –DM



[1] C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1942), 25.  
[2] Max Lucado, Come Thirsty (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2004), 111.